The Columbia College basketball team ended November with a perfect 7-0 record. Just because the calendar turned to December, that didn’t change the way the Jumpers played on the court.
After beating Lassen College 92-71 Saturday night, Columbia continued its hot play with an 87-65 home victory over Folsom Lake College Sunday afternoon at Oak Pavilion in Sonora. Columbia is now 8-0 and is ranked No. 9 of all California junior college basketball teams.
“I’m not surprised,” Columbia sophomore guard Seth Coddington said following Sunday’s win. “We work hard every day and we go through situations in practice that may happen in a game.”
For Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt, becoming one of the top teams in the state is not something that happened overnight. Even though Hoyt has won over 100 games in his Columbia coaching career, he still reminds himself of how lean the early years were when he was trying to turn a dying program around.
“It means a lot because I dump everything I have into this program,” Hoyt said about being ranked No. 9 in California. “Outside of my family, this is all I do. Obviously, I want to be successful, because if this is all I’m going to do, I better be good at it. For us to be doing what we are doing, I guess we are happy, but it’s more of a hunger to keep wanting more.”
While Columbia has yet to lose a game, Hoyt doesn’t think that a defeat will derail his team’s season. The two-time Central Valley Conference Coach of the Year feels his squad is strong enough, and mature enough, to be able to bounce back from any loss that may come their way.
“The goal is to win every game,” Hoyt said. “We play Modesto next, so we just worry about how we are going to win that game. We are going to do that with every game we play. But, we have the ability to beat every single team. If we win, or if we don’t, I’m not worried about coaching the group any differently.”
On Saturday night, Columbia jumped out to a 44-31 halftime lead over Lassen College and cruised to a 92-71 win. Freshman Grayson Carper led with a game-high 22 points, while Keith Shakes scored 15, and Deshawn Bartley and Kaleb Carter each added 12. As a team, the Jumpers sank 14 3-point baskets.
The following afternoon, Columbia didn’t start overly hot offensively. With 10 minutes to play, Lassen had a 15-14 lead, but that’s when the Jumpers began to click. In a span of six minutes, Columbia outscored Lassen 20-2, which includes making six shots from downtown.
“We just started off slow,” sophomore Landis Spivey said of Sunday’s game. “Maybe it was having a 1 p.m. game today. I don’t think we have a feeling-out period. We come out and try to go as hard as possible. It just took us a little time to get going today.”
The Jumpers ended the first half with a 47-22 lead. Columbia got outscored in the second half 43-40, but still walked away with a 22-point win.
Carper led Columbia with 23 points and five 3-point baskets. Spivey made four shots from behind the arc and netted 22 points. As a team, Columbia made 15 shots from downtown, just two shy of tying a school record.
After winning eight straight, the Columbia players are confident, but they know not to start thinking they are unbeatable, because that’s when the tide could start to turn.
“We have to come out and play every night,” Coddington said. “The only way we are going to lose is if we beat ourselves and we are trying to avoid that situation by just playing hard.”
Columbia still has six more games to play before starting conference play Jan. 8 on the road against powerhouse Fresno City College. With so much time before conference starts, Spivey isn’t looking ahead.
“We haven’t started thinking about conference at all,” Spivey said. “We just think about whatever’s next. If it’s a game, we think about the game. If it’s practice, we think about practice.”
With an 8-0 record and being only one of eight remaining undefeated teams in the state, does Hoyt feel that his squad could be put in the elite category?
“I don’t know how other people feel, but I know that everyone was really friendly to me when I first got the job, probably because playing Columbia wasn’t a game that they had to stress too much over and that’s changed a little bit,” Hoyt said. “I don’t know if you could call us elite, but again, I think we can beat every single team. But being elite, I don’t think that’s something you will know until you look back at the end of the year.”